Tonight is the Jewish holiday of Purim, and simultaneously the one-year mark of my mother’s passing. I remember shortly after she passed away I had big ideas of different ways of honoring her death, trying to make her proud, doing something special that would light up the world in her name. It turns out what I was able to accomplish in this very long and short year, was gathering all the strength and courage I could muster to get up every day and keep trying. This has been a year of trying, in so many ways. And so this is what I give.
A glimpse into grieving.
I have written already a few times about it, shorter snippets and longer posts every so often, and maybe it’s getting tiresome for some people, that this all I post or write about, but this is my new life, this is my new normal. Correction, my not-so new. This is what my normal means for me, and maybe for others, though I do not wish to speak on others grief. This is for me, and for you, and anyone who wants to better understand their friends or families who have been the unlucky ones to have been dumped and thrown into this new normal, this “dead parent club,” this “grieving your loved one club,” this “surviving club.” You are not forgotten, and you are never alone.
This is for my mother, who shone so bright. I hope I’m spreading your light mommy, because for every single message I receive in response, they all contain a sentence about how great you must have been, how deep your love and light must have shone, for they can feel it in these words. For how inspired they feel, how connected, and how very sorry for my loss. These messages push me to keep sharing. To keeping your memory alive with these words.
For my dear mother, who passed away on the happiest holiday of Purim, who did everything she could to hold on to her life, who encompassed kindness, joy, beauty, chesed, warmth, love, motherhood, teacher, wife, and friend. This is for Yehudis Chava Bat Yakov Dov, may her neshama have an Aliyah. May her light continue shining. Chag Samaech friends, and don’t forget to say L’chaim.
A Year of Grieving.
Leaving messages unread for days on end, and not having the capability or words to respond when people say, how are you?
You don’t want to respond with, how am I? I don’t want to die, but I don’t necessarily find reason to live sometimes, because living is hoping,
and thinking, about things that you want to accomplish and do, about things that were taken away from you.
When you lose someone close to you, it is as if you lost your identity, and you don’t know how to get it back.
It’s feeling like you want to scream 99% of the time, but knowing that you can’t.
Feeling desperate to just fast forward 20 years, thinking it’ll never get easier
thinking its too late
death is so final.
It’s not wanting to eat, but being hungry, and then being angry that you’re hungry.
Food loses its value, its excitement, it becomes sustainment.
Everything becomes just sustainment.
It’s stopping to talk to people, not being able to initiate conversations,
having no interest in initiating conversations but then feeling incredibly isolated and lonely.
Feeling like you’re the only one going through this, even though you know you’re not. You just want to go and crawl into bed and go under the covers, or hold her hand, but you know you can’t,
its wanting to be safe in a mothers embrace and then realizing you no longer have a mother to embrace
realizing even when it gets better, anyone can be taken away at any moment. Even yourself. So whats the point?
is so temporary?
It’s having to struggle with putting effort into getting a degree for a future when you don’t even know what the future is or if you believe it could happen
It’s being angry and sad and jealous all the time and hateful for these attributes that you have developed and no longer recognizing yourself and not knowing how to go back to how things were,
It means wanting to run.
But having no energy.
Itching to climb out of your skin but having no means to take care of it.
It means trying to escape but being too tired to get up and get out of bed and do something. It means trying to accomplish things like baking,
and realizing you forgot ingredients
because you get too distracted
because you can’t think straight.
It means constantly feeling like you’re failing at accomplishing small things to big things to having no energy to do anything.
Washing the floors of her kitchen and remembering that smell,
The smells and the memories of her cleaning the kitchen every Saturday night in her robe and the smell in her house,
It’s the absence of that smell because you just can’t do it as good as her and you don’t have the patience or energy to so you swifter instead of mopping and you send a small apology to wherever she is and you promise that next week you’ll do better, but you don’t.
It’s seeing her everywhere in her house,
Folding the laundry on her bed because that’s what she did but dammit how did she get the towels to be folded so thin and neatly and why didn’t I ask her then to show me.
It’s using Siri as your new life force to jot things down and remind you because you know you’re going to forget about them in the next 30 seconds.
Reading becomes a chore, something you know you have to practice and have patience to get good at and enjoy again. The only thing you can sit through now are movies and tv shows. Escaping reality is the only thing you want.
Meaning loses its value
When a life feels stolen from you, you feel that everything is unjust. Every person with a mother is someone you now envy, even despise sometimes. You can’t stand small talk, or complaints about parents, even though you did it too, and you still do it, but you can’t help but flinch at every time someone casually mentions their mom. Something you’ll never have again.
You don’t care about searching for a career or future retirement plans because what if you don’t make it past 30, or 40,
The new deadline becomes 65
The new fear is cancer and pain.
Grieving makes it hard to believe in anything great.
It’s hard to believe in yourself
It means getting easily distracted.
It means not cleaning your room for weeks on end because what’s the point
What’s the point
There’s no point
Going on and on and over and over again.
Its the constant repetition
Of the injustice
Circling on repeat
Feedback loops in your head
Everything you’ll never have, everything you’ve lost and everything you’ll never have again.
It’s these thoughts that don’t go away, and come back at the slightest trigger.
Everything becomes a trigger.
Going to the grocery store and remembering her favorite foods and the ones she hated and how she was such a picky eater but she still managed to order everything for the table and how she always used to call you and ask what you wanted for dinner, and if you said nothing she would buy you something special anyway.
It’s going shopping and remembering how all she wanted to do in the world was go shopping with you and why the hell didn’t you just GO?
You said you were busy, you were fussy, you didn’t have patience to shop with your mom because as much as she’s an angel now and perfect in your mind, the reality is that no relationship is perfect and it wasn’t always easy.
But this yearning makes it hard to remember the harder times, the not-so-easy fights, the tenseness, the awkwardness, the foreignness, the strangeness, the disconnect at times because for 95% of the time you had with your mother you weren’t even an adult. You had almost 5 years into “adulthood” and before that and most of that you were just a bratty teenager.
You didn’t have enough time to develop these strong relationships and you cry because now you will never be able to.
You cry for your future self for not being able to have this relationship with her.
For every year as you mature and grow older and deepen connections you have with people, you cry because this is one relationship you no longer have control over.
Grieving makes you rethink every decision, and calculate why, why didn’t you realize metastatic cancer often means a death sentence, why when you knew time was limited, why did you spend an entire three month summer in another country? Its fighting with yourself, screaming in your head and defending yourself that if you knew it would be her last summer you would have spent every single day with her but you didn’t know right, how could you?
But its not that believable, because you could have done more research.
You could have chosen differently.
Grieving is having to constantly rethink every single conscious decision and choice you made.
It’s having to live with every single missed moment
Every single missed moment is one less memory you’ll have to remember,
One less photo to look at,
One less video to watch and hear her voice.
It’s wanting to yell at the injustice that the last photo you will have with your mother is in your 22nd year, and you will never get more photos past that. And in those last few months, she was sick, and you didn’t have enough good ones. You’ll never have enough good photos, there will never be enough photos,
Nothing will ever be enough
Grieving is thinking over
That nothing will be enough.
It’s being left out in the dark while everyone moves on.
It’s running with no finish line.
Grieving is all these things and more.